Edith Packer, RIP

Neil Parille's picture
Submitted by Neil Parille on Thu, 2018-02-15 16:18

George Reisman's wife, Edith Packer, passed away recently.



Delivered at the O’Connor Mortuary in Laguna Hills, California on February 9th 2018

As I’m sure you all know, Edith was an extremely talented and unusual woman. She earned a J.D. degree in law and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. She was in practice as a psychologist and psychotherapist for 48 years, and through her knowledge and therapeutic techniques greatly improved the lives of most of her patients, in many cases dramatically. She continually sought to inspire her patients to become the best and most accomplished people they could be. Again and again, her practice resulted in young people who came to her riddled with psychological problems and stuck in a seemingly hopeless life, finding the courage to do what was necessary to break free and go on to successful careers and successful relationships and to far more satisfaction and happiness in life than would have been possible without her.

She was also an author and lecturer. She wrote nine pamphlets, which were the result of lectures she delivered for the Jefferson School in the 1980s and 1990s. (I invite you all to take a copy of each of them, and of her interview with Jerry Kirkpatrick, with my compliments. They’re on a table somewhere in this room. And they’ve all been put together as an Amazon.com Kindle book under the title Lectures on Psychology: A Guide to Understanding Your Emotions. To find it, just search Amazon in the section Kindle books and then under the name Edith Packer.)


Edith was born on October 27, 1924. At this point, I don’t think she can hold it against me for revealing her age. So when she died this last Sunday she was over 93 years old. I had always expected her, and ardently desired her, to live to be at least 105. The fact that she didn’t, has devastated me. For over 48 years her presence filled my life, and now it’s simply gone. I feel a great void.

It’s somewhat unusual for someone to live to be 93. What is truly unusual, indeed, amazing, is that Edith was still in practice as recently as a few days before this last Christmas. Her practice was small—about seven or eight patients a week—but it still existed. And she was still very sharp. In her prime, she often saw seven, or even eight, patients in a day.

Edith was born in a small city called Ushorod. According to her passport, Edith was born in the Ukraine. Actually, she was born in what was then the eastern-most province of Czechoslovakia, called Carpatho-Russia. The Munich Pact in 1938, when Edith was 14, gave that province to Hungary, which held it until 1945, when it became part of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union made it part of the Ukraine, which was it’s second-most important territory.

From 1920 until April of 1944, Hungary was ruled by a Regent, Admiral Horthy, whose administration could generally be compared to that of Mussolini in Italy. From 1938 to early 1944, Jews could still live in Hungary, but only in an increasingly oppressive environment. They were banned from practicing various professions; Jewish students had to sit in the back of the classroom. Edith, who had been elected president of her class in Gymnasium, was removed from that position because she was Jewish. Toward the end of the period, Jews were compelled to wear yellow stars of David on their clothing. Young Jewish men were drafted into labor battalions, where many of them died, including one of her older brothers, who had been a lawyer and who had been prohibited from practicing his profession. In April of 1944 the conditions of Jews changed from bad to horrible: the Holocaust came to Hungary. Under the direction of Adolf Eichmann, the Hungarian government began rounding up the Jews for deportation to concentration camps and death.

At the age of 19, Edith saw the death camps coming. She urged her parents and the rest of her family to flee. She kept hammering at them with the question of how would the Germans feed them? Why would they feed them? Her family, particularly her parents, had the opportunity to flee. But they chose to stay, stuck like deer in the headlights of an oncoming truck. According to Edith, her mother stayed because she couldn’t bear to give up such things as the familiarity of her home, and her father stayed because he was the leader of the Jews in Carpatho-Russia and believed that leaving would be a betrayal of his fellow Jews.

But Edith fled. And despite his own choice to stay, her father supported Edith’s decision for herself and had a special pair of shoes made for her, which contained a supply of gold coins and diamonds, so that she would not suffer want during her flight. She also found help from a Hungarian senator, who provided her with false papers. This senator became her first husband, and the father of her first child, Eva.

Eva was the mother of a member of our audience: Daniel Salmieri, who is now a New York Times best-selling illustrator and author of children’s books. Will Daniel, Edith’s grandson, please wave or stand up, to let people see you? Eva was also a graduate of Hunter College summa cum laude, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and a Woodrow Wilson Scholar. She attended graduate school at Columbia University, and was employed as a freelance editor at several major publishing houses. To Edith’s great sorrow, Eva died of cancer in 1990. Her husband, Robert, was and is a successful artist and designer.

Edith, being blonde and blue-eyed and with false papers was able to avoid being identified as a Jew and succeeded in saving her life. She hid out for the remainder of the war first in Budapest and then across the border in Romania. But she felt guilty about having left her parents. I thought she had overcome the guilt many years ago, but it came back in her final days. I say that any guilt should have belonged to them, not to her. It was they who did wrong in refusing to leave, in refusing not just at the last minute, when it really was too late for them, since, not being blonde and blue eyed, they could easily have been identified as Jews, but much earlier, when the facts were already clear and they chose to ignore them. Edith, did absolutely right in leaving and thus living, not dying.



A seminal article, Neil

Brant Gaede's picture

And a must read.



Rand and Psychology

Neil Parille's picture


Brant Gaede's picture

was no authority on psychology.


Yaron , , ,

Neil Parille's picture

said the other day that Rand said "psychology was in its infancy" and he agreed with that. I assume Rand said that, but hasn't psychology changed since Rand was critiquing it during the high-tide of Skinner and Behaviorism?


Neil Parille's picture

I like Dr. Reisman's book, although it is too long. I can't comment on its mix of Austrian and Classical theory.

Incidentally, Reisman was critical of Mayhew's editing of Ayn Rand Answers, which got him attacked at the time. Thanks to Robert Campbell's work, we now know just how horrible Mayhew's rewriting is.


From the conclusion of the eulogy ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

"Edith’s passing has left a great void in me. And my knowledge and commitment to reality and rationality have only made it worse. I know that Edith no longer exists as any kind of actual being. All that physically remains of her is a small pile of ashes. She no longer has eyes and so she cannot see me. She no longer has ears and so she cannot hear me. There just is no longer any “she.” But nevertheless, I pretend that in some way, she still exists and that she can still see and hear me, and so I still talk to her every day. And when I’m alone, out of anyone else’s hearing, I talk to her out loud. So I now need Edith more than ever—as my psychotherapist, in addition to everything else.

"But you know what. Until just this last Sunday, I did talk to Edith out loud, in reality, practically every day, for almost half a century. And so it feels much more normal to go on talking to her, even if only in pretense, than to slam into the brick wall of the fact that she simply is no more. So what I think I’m doing is trying to tap the brakes gently, so to speak, and come to a smooth stop, if that’s possible. I don’t think that’s actually unreasonable."


Mark Hunter's picture

People can read about it in excruciating detail at
The Ayn Rand Institute vs. George Reisman.

Very saddened to hear this

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I have lovely memories of dining out with the Reismans many times. One time, George was driving us to our destination, and at one point cleared his throat as if to say something momentous. Edith said, "What is it, George? You sound as though you're about to make an announcement." I said, "Oh no! He's going to renounce the gold standard." We got a timely laugh from that, since we were getting anxious that the cross-street numbers were going down when we thought they should be going up. George threw me his phone to call my hosts who had given us our instructions. All was well in the end.

Their troubles with ARI were more with Peter and Harry than Leonard. I think Peikoff was pretty sad about what happened, but he could have stopped it.

Somewhere here there's a photo of the Reismans with me and Valliant I think.

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